Cut the stress and keep it together
It's challenging enough to maintain family harmony around a full-time job. Add caregiving to the mix and it's easy for all those balls you're juggling to tumble down around you.
As much as we love our parents, caregiving is an emotionally and physically draining task that leaves many feeling overwhelmed, under-supported and pulled in too many directions.
According to a 2015 AARP report, caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours a week providing care. They help with dressing, bathing, shopping and other activities of daily living, as well as managing finances and coordinating doctors' appointments. About 57 percent of caregivers also perform nursing duties such as injections and catheter maintenance.
With so much responsibility on your shoulders, how do you keep everyone happy — including yourself? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Ask for flextime.
If your employer allows, start work earlier, later or work a split shift to accommodate your loved one's care and appointments.
2. Work from home.
Telecommuting adds flexibility to your day. "There are so many jobs you can do from anywhere," says Amy Goyer, AARP's family and caregiving expert and author of Juggling Work, Life and Caregiving. "At the same time, with certain jobs, that's not a possibility." In that case, Goyer suggests, consider transferring to a different location for a shorter commute, or look into job-sharing, where you split duties and pay with a coworker.
3. Look into leave.
The Family Medical Leave Act allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for caregiving without risk of losing your job. Talk with your HR representative or the U.S. Department of Labor to find out if you qualify and how to apply.
Many employers also allow workers to use vacation and sick time to care for ill family members. Some even allow coworkers to donate leave. Called leave donation or leave sharing, these programs allow employees to donate paid time off, vacation or sick time to a pool to be used by colleagues who experience medical emergencies.
4. Enlist a village.
Build a network of trusted family members, friends and neighbors to help out when you're swamped. Mom gets her needs met, you get a break and you have a list of backups for times when you can't get away.
5. Hire a paid caregiver.
If budget allows, share caregiving duties with a paid in-home caregiver. While the paid caregiver helps with housekeeping, meals and bathing, for example, you pay the bills and buy groceries.
6. Consider a Senior Living community.
Again, if budget allows, a Senior Living community will offer your parent a safe home environment. And instead of being the primary caregiver, you get to be a "kid" again to your parent. Of course, you will perform some care duties, but it doesn’t all have to fall solely on your shoulders.
7. Schedule family time.
Schedule date nights and family outings as you would doctors' appointments and business meetings. "And remember it's about quality time instead of quantity time," says Goyer. "Stay focused on your family when you're with them."
8. Schedule "me time."
When balancing work, family and caregiving, it's easy to put off hobbies, exercise, friend time and alone time. Don't. "It's not selfish. It's practical," says Goyer. "We need to have ourselves in good shape so we have energy care for others."
Don't have an hour to spare? Take 10 minutes to walk, garden, play with your dog or just be still and breathe.
9. Streamline your life.
Step down from the volunteer committee or the club you don't have time for. Use a grocery delivery service such as Safeway.com, Amazon Fresh, Walmart Grocery or Instacart. Use online bill pay for your family and your loved one's finances. Use online tools and calendars to manage appointments and to-do lists.
10. Get support.
Many caregivers feel isolated, yet there are about 43.5 million of us out there, AARP reports. Sharing your experiences and feelings with like-minded people helps you feel less alone. Your local Area Agency on Aging, Family Caregiver Alliance and the Alzheimer's Association provide information on caregiver support groups near you. You can find additional support through AARP's online community as well as on Facebook groups.
Balancing responsibilities s a parent, grandparent, employee and caregiver takes immense strength and patience. You don't have to go it alone.